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Dez Bryant, Marvin Jones and Red Zone Conversion Rate
Image via footballschedule/flickr
Image via footballschedule/flickr

In the world of baseball, there is very little film or ‘Eye test’ versus statistics debate any longer. Sure, one of the older guys may get upset and write a foot stomping column once a year, but for the most part, anyone who is regarded seriously in baseball media (and especially fantasy baseball) plays solely in the realm of advanced statistics. If you have an argument to make, it needs to be evidence based.

One of the reasons they are able to do this and we aren’t in football is simple: baseball is a game of one on one interactions. Pitcher/Batter confrontations are very different than 22 players on a football field all acting independently of one another; but I still believe that there is a lesson to be learned from the field of baseball that hasn’t been explored fully. Namely, the concept of rate statistics. Essentially, rather than measuring the volume of something, rate statistics measure how often it occurs, compares that to league average and is able to tell you if a player is getting ‘lucky’ or not performing at their true skill level. For context, see the SaberMetric Library at Fangraphs. This definition of xFIP will help explain the concept.

There is a lot of data mining that will have to be done in order to identify any predictive rate statistics for football players. We know that there is little year to year correlation for stats like yards per carry, so in order to find predictive metrics, it’s going to require a lot of research. Wide receivers are of the most interest to me, because predicting their break outs and declines has the largest profit potential in all of fantasy football. What follows is my first foray in attempting to discover if redzone conversion rates are predictable and if there is even a ‘mean’ for a player to regress too.

2013 RZ Performance

Player T C Yds RZ TD % TD
Marvin Jones 14 12 105 0.64 9
Marlon Brown 14 9 74 0.50 7
Zach Miller 10 6 42 0.50 5
Dez Bryant 21 13 68 0.48 10
Anquan Boldin 15 11 128 0.47 7
Jerricho Cotchery 22 13 145 0.45 10
Jared Cook 11 7 48 0.45 5
Julius Thomas 18 14 112 0.44 8
Vernon Davis 21 12 109 0.43 9
Eddie Royal 14 11 64 0.43 6
Joseph Fauria 14 7 50 0.43 6
Jimmy Graham 26 17 118 0.42 11
Wes Welker 24 19 120 0.42 10
Brandon Marshall 22 12 83 0.41 9
Kenbrell Thompkins 10 5 60 0.40 4
Marcedes Lewis 10 5 33 0.40 4
Brent Celek 10 5 28 0.40 4
Jordan Cameron 19 11 76 0.37 7
Riley Cooper 11 7 58 0.36 4
Eric Decker 25 15 128 0.36 9
Jason Witten 17 10 74 0.35 6
Demaryius Thomas 20 13 99 0.35 7
Greg Olsen 18 9 79 0.33 6
Charles Clay 15 10 50 0.33 5
Martellus Bennett 16 8 62 0.31 5
Emmanuel Sanders 16 9 38 0.31 5
Calvin Johnson 26 11 98 0.31 8
Dallas Clark 10 4 20 0.30 3
Delanie Walker 17 10 92 0.29 5
Keenan Allen 21 7 64 0.29 6
Tony Gonzalez 25 17 147 0.28 7
DeSean Jackson 11 6 55 0.27 3
Anthony Fasano 11 7 50 0.27 3
Denarius Moore 11 4 12 0.27 3
Jordy Nelson 23 14 97 0.26 6
Larry Fitzgerald 24 15 108 0.25 6
Steve Smith 16 8 66 0.25 4
Matt Forte 12 10 70 0.25 3
Shane Vereen 12 7 55 0.25 3
Steve Johnson 12 6 48 0.25 3
Cordarrelle Patterson 12 6 36 0.25 3
Garrett Graham 13 6 34 0.23 3
A.J. Green 22 10 79 0.23 5
Jamaal Charles 18 9 68 0.22 4
Danny Woodhead 23 21 118 0.22 5
Coby Fleener 14 9 62 0.21 3
Dwayne Bowe 14 7 42 0.21 3
Vincent Jackson 19 8 43 0.21 4
Julian Edelman 24 16 98 0.21 5
Pierre Garcon 20 8 56 0.20 4
Jarrett Boykin 15 8 61 0.20 3
Antonio Gates 15 8 48 0.20 3
Rod Streater 10 5 68 0.20 2
Kendall Wright 10 8 46 0.20 2
Tavon Austin 10 4 33 0.20 2
Randall Cobb 10 4 21 0.20 2
Marques Colston 16 8 73 0.19 3
Cecil Shorts 16 5 49 0.19 3
Knowshon Moreno 11 10 65 0.18 2
Terrance Williams 11 5 60 0.18 2
Mohamed Sanu 11 6 41 0.18 2
Brian Hartline 11 4 40 0.18 2
Mike Wallace 11 4 39 0.18 2
Brian Quick 11 5 35 0.18 2
Torrey Smith 17 6 37 0.18 3
Andre Johnson 18 7 32 0.17 3
Victor Cruz 12 6 61 0.17 2
Greg Jennings 12 8 52 0.17 2
Brandon Myers 12 7 37 0.17 2
Pierre Thomas 12 12 18 0.17 2
Greg Little 12 4 9 0.17 2
Alshon Jeffery 19 5 32 0.16 3
Kris Durham 13 5 49 0.15 2
David Nelson 13 6 43 0.15 2
Michael Floyd 14 6 61 0.14 2
James Jones 14 8 49 0.14 2
T.Y. Hilton 15 8 58 0.13 2
Jermaine Kearse 10 5 43 0.10 1
Darrius Heyward-Bey 10 2 15 0.10 1
Marcel Reece 11 6 68 0.09 1
Dexter McCluster 11 10 60 0.09 1
Jason Avant 11 4 41 0.09 1
Ace Sanders 11 5 30 0.09 1
DeAndre Hopkins 11 3 21 0.09 1
Roddy White 12 5 39 0.08 1
Josh Gordon 18 5 44 0.06 1
Antonio Brown 23 12 69 0.04 1
Le’Veon Bell 14 9 43 0.00 0
Harry Douglas 14 5 38 0.00 0
Ray Rice 13 7 14 0.00 0
Chris Givens 12 1 5 0.00 0
Justin Blackmon 10 3 29 0.00 0
Hakeem Nicks 10 1 2 0.00 0
  • That was every player with 10 or more redzone targets in 2013, sorted by conversion rate. The league average on those targets was a 25% conversion rate. I opted to leave out players with less than 10 targets to eliminate some of those noise inherent in this sample. Chances are, if you didn’t receive 10 RZ targets, you likely were not very fantasy relevant.
  • Holy crap, Dez Bryant. Not that it’s surprising given his skill set but if you want to make an argument for him as your #1 fantasy WR in that Linehan offense (as discussed here), then I wouldn’t fight you.
  • The RV crew is understandably low on Antonio Brown from a dynasty perspective and his .04% RZ conversion rate would explain why.
  • Among the notables who were below league average: AJ Green, Deandre Hopkins, Josh Gordon, Mike Floyd, T.Y Hilton, Alshon Jeffery, Randall Cobb and Kendall Wright.
  • This is, I think, where the potential of rate statistics comes into play. The next step in this study will be looking at RZTD% by height and over a multi-year strech, to determine if there is an average that players of a certain height or weight tend to play towards in order to predict positive or negative regression. For example, one would expect Alshon Jeffery, a physically imposing player with a solid RZTD% in college to bounce back in the redzone whereas Antonio Brown has never converted a large number of RZ looks into touchdowns.

Look out for more work on this area coming very soon. If you have any ideas on the project, or think I’m terribly misguided, please let me know on Twitter @DavisMattek.

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